War to mould minds

The coercion worked.

Fearing for her life, Dr Bernadette Dean, an eminent Pakistani educationist and one of the 12 members of the Government of Sindh’s advisory committee on school curricula reform, has fled the country. She is a victim of a decades-long effort by religious extremists to control our education system.

The driving force behind the campaign against her has been the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). On March 28, 2015, its student wing the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) organised a multiparty conference on curriculum change. JI’s Sindh emir, Dr Meraj-ul-Huda Siddiqui, declared as “intolerable” the Sindh advisory committee’s efforts to remove mandatory religious lessons from general knowledge, Sindhi, Urdu and Pakistan Studies textbooks.

Singling out the only non-Muslim member of the committee, the JI and IJT launched a personal attack on Dr Dean. Karachi was plastered with inflammatory banners targeting her. She was accused of being “a foreigner woman who has single-handedly made changes to the curriculum and textbooks that made them secular” and called an enemy of Islam. The truth is that she was targeted for trying to ensure that school textbooks meet the requirements of the Pakistani Constitution.

Physicist who served Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad for 32 years before retiring in 2005.